I’m writing today to raise money for Kentuckians for the Commonwealth. I have set a goal of raising $1,787 for KFTC. Why $1,787? Two reasons: 1) that seems like an achievable goal and 2) 1787 is the year we got our Constitution. Just after the ink was dry on the final version of the Constitution, a woman asked Benjamin Franklin what kind of government the convention had created.
“A republic, if you can keep it,” he responded.
Following the truly frightening election of an authoritarian bully two weeks ago, progressives, activists, Democrats, and even people who normally don’t pay much attention to politics are mobilized and motivated like I’ve never seen before. The energy—driven by fear of what’s to come and the discovery that in 2016 there is so much work yet to be done—is palpable and everywhere. Will we keep our republic? Will we be enough for this moment and worthy of our forebears?
New leaders and new organizations will emerge from this energy, especially aided by our ability to organize so much and so well online. This is good stuff. Great stuff. Go get ‘em, everyone.
But, [whispers]: KFTC has been organizing in communities across Kentucky for thirty-five years, y’all.
In these dizzying, disorienting days in which we find ourselves having to prepare for a Trump Administration, people have a natural inclination to start something new. Let me just suggest this: KFTC has a time-tested structure into which you can pour your energy and enthusiasm. KFTC has local knowledge and a preexisting network of alliances, allies, and members to welcome you and your energy and enhance your work.
If you are looking to do something, to get involved, you could do far worse than showing up at your local KFTC meeting next month.
Right now, they are working on the following issues:
- Coal and Water
- Economic Justice
- New Energy & Transition
- Voting Rights
And, here’s the thing: KFTC's mission and issues are driven by what their members want to work on. So, if you have an issue you care deeply about, getting other KFTC members to care about it means that KFTC as an organization cares about it. Recently, the Bowling Green chapter has done tremendously good work on advocating for reforms to landlord-tenant law in their community.
Here in Louisville, the Jefferson County chapter of KFTC is organizing awesome events like this one coming up about community land trusts. If executed well, a community land trust in a neighborhood like Smoketown could build wealth among the working families and preserve affordable housing in the neighborhood in perpetuity. Sounds awesome, right? That kind of project only gets off the ground with the attention and energy of an organization like KFTC.
Restoration of voting rights for former felons is so important to me. And, KFTC has been working on this issue for more than a decade, making slow, incremental, hard-fought progress across Kentucky and in Frankfort. It’s not a sexy issue and the 250,000 people affected by disenfranchisement literally have no political power. Without the leadership of KFTC and the long attention to this issue by KFTC members, this issue wouldn’t be on anyone’s political radar. Full stop.
Most people don’t know this, but when I was in law school, I had a radio show on UK’s student run station, WRFL. The BlueGrassRoots Radio Review was truly terrible. But, KFTC came on the show anyway and talked about restoration of voting rights for former felons way back then. Here’s that interview:
I have to say, relistening to (parts of) that interview before posting it made me a little sad. That was 10 years ago and we are still working on restoring voting rights for former felons in Kentucky. Check that: Kentuckians for the Commonwealth is still working on restoration of voting rights. Even though I claim that this issue is "so important to me," I haven't done any work on that issue for almost eight years. Which is, to my mind, Exhibit A for why KFTC is important. Without organizations like KFTC with the will and skill to endure and continue to fight, politicians and policymakers can just try to run out the clock or grind grassroots organizations down with delay. But, KFTC is not going anywhere and while policymakers may delay, KFTC will be back next year, too. My energy and enthusiasm comes and goes. KFTC presses on.
When Benjamin Franklin said, “A republic, if you can keep it,” I don't think he was referring to keeping the republic safe from foreign invaders. Instead, I think he meant that keeping a republic will require vigilance by and the active engagement of all its citizens. We must be worthy of a republic. We must, generation after generation, earn a republic.
At KFTC, you will find an organization of vigilant, engaged citizens ready to harness your energy and work alongside you toward a better, fairer, more prosperous Kentucky. You will find an organization through which you can earn your republic.
Join something new if you want. Start something new if you must. But, first, support the work of the longtime organizers in our Commonwealth.
Good job, you made it to the end!